The Quick Review: iWeb ‘09

Two days, two apps. I’m on fire. Not literally though, so don’t send the fire department.

iWeb ‘09 is the third incarnation of Apple’s simple Web site software and to be honest, not a lot has changed since the first time I used it in version 1. Sure there are more themes available, but they’re all still fairly locked down. Sure there are widgets for YouTube and Google Maps, but simple things like counters won’t work in the page unless you use Apple’s MobileMe service ($99 per year).

But then again, this is me speaking as someone who has their own personal blog set up and actually enjoys fiddling with Custom Style Sheets. Most people just want a site that works and iWeb can do a fantastic job of that. Photo galleries are as easy as dragging an album of photos onto an album page in iWeb. That’s it. It’s also relatively easy to set up a nice look for a blog or a podcast or just to start from scratch with a blank page.

I’m disappointed in the lack of new themes for iWeb 09. Leaf Print and Fine Line both look nice and profesionalish, but there’s no pizazz or real creative spark emanating from them. When even the 1.1 release had six themes, it’s disappointing to see a major release with so little added in that regard.

I personally probably won’t make much use of iWeb 09, but if you’re just getting started or want a quick way to show off your photos to friends and family and even a few business contacts without a lot of fuss, it might be worthwhile for you.

A little inauguration flair

YouTube has a surprise on its homepage for anyone interested today in the form of inauguration speeches from various presidents courtesy of C-SPAN.

If you read this after Jan. 20, then just go to the channel page here.

And now more on the DTV switch

We’re a month and a day away from the digital television transition and we have an FCC commissioner freaked out about the changeover.

His letter is quite enlightening, especially the third paragraph where Robert McDowell shows off how long it’s been since he’s called fore tech support.

Remember that whole coupon thing I mentioned earlier?

The digital TV transition has hit a little bump in the road. At least for anyone trying to get a coupon for a converter box. The program to get $40 toward a box to receive digital TV signals through an analog connection has run out of funds (or as it’s gently put on the site “reached its funding ceiling”).

There’s a waiting list available on the site where if you’re lucky, someone else’s coupon will expire. After all, they’re only good for 90 days. As is typical, it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. Of course they’re kind enough to offer a few options:

Consumers who have an analog TV and rely on a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears to receive their programs are encouraged to take action to ensure at least one TV in their home is prepared for the digital television transition. You may:

  • Purchase a TV converter box without a coupon;
  • Buy a TV with a digital tuner, or;
  • Subscribe to cable, satellite or another pay service

For those of you who were confused by those options, I’ll simpify them:

  • Suck it up and pay for our underestimation
  • Spend 10 times what a converter box would cost
  • Pay for the equivalent of a converter box a month.

I’m not a fan of these options and it’s looking more and more like we’re coming up on the long-predicted nightmare of a chaotic DTV transition. Most people will be fine, but there’s going to be a significant number of people cut off from free television on February 17.

President-elect Barack Obama has asked for a delay in the transition because of this. Congress will have to pass a law before the deadline to change it.

An interesting fact: The coupon pool was $1.34 billion, enough for 33,500,000 coupons, or a TV for just over 10 percent of the American population.

Scrabulous? Nah, it’s Lexulous now

The saga of the scrabble clone on Facebook has finally ended…for now? I only leave a question mark because the story has been an oddity since Scrabulous was launched. After that, Hasbro decided to sue, Scrabulous was reimagined, then disappeared, then took on a whole other feel while Hasbro’s version came and never really took off. Of all the oddities, my old Scrabulous games magically reappeared in Lexulous.

I’m so confused. But for those of you dying to try it out, here’s the link.

http://apps.facebook.com/lexulous/

I have returned, but there will be more

Alas they needed me back here for my day job in the Yuba-Sutter area, but the Macworld writing will still go on. I have a huge stack of demos and paperwork to go through and iWork is FINALLY downloading properly for me. iTunes is being much more cooperative, which is to be expected when it’s the day after everyone and their mothers and second cousins were slamming the servers.

While I was in SF though I noticed I shut off the 3G radio on my iPhone. My connection was good until I got halfway between Sacramento and Marysville and I thought “oh well, there goes my connection” but lo and behold I pull into work and there’s the happy little blue 3G again. I almost got too spoiled by the faster cell phone connection.

By the way for those of you curious about what 3G is, it’s the third generation cell phone data network and brings faster Internet speed to mobile devices. Don’t expect cable Internet speeds out of it though, it’s DSL speed at the best. Still, it’s better than nothing.

iTunes update + iWork trial

My downloads have been running for about a half an hour now in terms of downloading my music, however I believe this is because of the fact I squeezed in my purchase just before the link was removed from the homepage. The pictures have come back on the page, but the link has not returned.

A quick tip for anyone who already purchased their downloads and had the system time out on them, restart iTunes and tell it to check for purchases under the “Advanced” menu.

Bear in mind these downloads will be twice as large as the songs you originally bought on iTunes.

In other news, I checked the Apple Store near Moscone and apparently iWork won’t be hitting retail until later in the week. It’s available to buy now online. If you want to try it out, the free 30-day demo download is here.